There have been many times since my surgery that I’ve been reminded of my surgery and how fragile life actually can be.
To think that I learnt to play the trumpet with one working lung without anyone realising it is a testament to my teacher and her teaching skills and to my parents who encouraged me to practice every day and not give in.
As a music teacher now, I am often challenged by my pupils who say, ‘I haven’t got enough puff, I’m not as big as you’. No matter your size, no matter your puff, perseverance will conquer. I’m living proof.
How our bodies work
I was always the small one at school – often nicknamed ‘little Becky’ (there were 5 Rebeccas at school and by far I was the smallest). My mum often told me that my body was concentrating on me breathing to stay alive, rather than me growing. How true that was. Once my body was strong enough, I grew; I’m average height I think – certainly taller than my sisters 😉
Playing the trumpet now as an adult and being able to teach all brass to others has given me a new insight into how my teacher helped me. And how I can help others learn how their body works alongside their instruments.
For as long as I can remember, walking has been a huge part of my family due to my dad. He loves a good map reading session and a hike, and we would often go out for long walks across the South Downs. Even with his heart condition, he walked as much as he could.
Walking is one of the best things you can do for exercise of the heart. After my surgery, not being allowed to drive, I walked everywhere. I love being outdoors – but I’m definitely a fair-weather walker!
I didn’t walk for years. In fact, exercise is something that in my 20s I didn’t really need. I was at my physical peak.
I was enviably skinny, with a natural 6 pack.
Family and birth defects
When we decided the time was right, my husband and I enquired if I would be OK to start a family.
My condition was a birth defect. One I had been born with. One I possibly inherited. Not from my dad’s side, but from my mother’s side.
My gran was diagnosed with a birth heart defect 2 years after me at the age of 82!! I could potentially pass something on.
I was checked out, given an exercise test, and told I could go ahead. I had mentally prepared myself for having a C-section and adding to my scars. I was looking forward to this wonderful new journey.
To be honest though, I hated being pregnant. It was a daily uncomfortable cycle of body changes, emotions and generally complaining to my husband.
My bump was small, my stomach muscles were strong. My heart was coping fine. They announced I could do it naturally.
I hadn’t prepared for that!!
I had hospital appointments throughout with my cardiology team and my baby’s cardiology team. They checked on my little miracle every step of the way. And when giving birth I had 2 teams in with me – it got quite traumatic at some points, which I’ll spare you any detail of.
But our healthy little girl was born with no signs of heart defects, and she continues to be the most fit and un-ill person I know!
I started walking again through my pregnancy and afterwards. It got me out of the house and gave me some freedom in the great outdoors.
A new diagnosis
As my daughter started pre-school, I had a new health scare.
I had my annual chest infection (that happens at the end of September / beginning of October EVERY year) and the doctor noticed a mole they didn’t like. A mole that was fine when I asked them to check it 7 months before.
This mole sat on my right breast – right next to my scar.
My husband came with me to the hospital, and they decided to remove it then and there and do a biopsy.
A new scar. Next to my old scar. In a place where everyone can see if I wear a low-cut top.
I collapsed inwardly, my husband could see instantly how my walls were crumbling down. My fear of what ifs, my physical scars and what they mean, and yet again a chance doctor’s appointment to pick up something very major.
I struggled mentally, and when the results came back as a melanoma I cried.
I’d had a heart problem, and now cancer.
But both were spotted early – by chance.
The melanoma was removed, and everything remains clear.
I beat a heart problem, and I’ve beaten cancer.